Swimming with the Razorfishes

Saturday, May 01, 2004

I just remembered one of the things I suggested for iTunes when it was released.

Apple allows Morgan to create an iMix and publish it to the world (or just to his friends). So Morgan, in a sense, is doing marketing work for Apple's music store. The one piece missing is incentive for Morgan.

Apple will make money when I buy songs from his iMix. He should get a cut. This was the missing bit in other P to P and online music stores; they entirely missed the network effect and power of distributed, one to one marketing.

Apple seems to have all the tools in place to create iMixes and use them as personal promotion tools (independent artists, etc...). If Apple manages to spread some of the profit generated by the iMixes, they'll have a quite an interesting product.

Cool stuff.

Morgan just sent me an iMix. I somehow missed this snappy new feature of iTunes 4.5 when it was released.

The iMixes in iTunes 4.5 are a way to share playlists with friends, complete with a composite of the cover art. So cool.

Unfortunately, iMixes seem to be treated as complete albums, requiring you to buy each of the songs in the iMix. I'd like someone to send me an iMix containing music I have ripped into iTunes to see if this is the case (this means nothing from you, bdu).

As long as I'm talking about software from small, independent developers, lets take a look at Schubert-It's PDF Browser Plugin.

I've been using PDF Browser Plugin for years. It is a simple, clever plugin for Apple's Safari browser (it will actually support any browser that uses Apple's plugin framework) that uses the operating system's PDF rendering framework to display PDFs. Just like Adobe's plugin, but far less obtrusive.

It has always been an excellent product, doing its thing with no fuss at all. And it was free. At one point, I sent mail to the author, Manfred Schubert, to see if he was taking donations for PDF Browser Plugin.

Recently, Manfred released version 2 of the plugin, greatly improved, still free for private use. I wish he'd set up a PayPal link, or something.

Erik Barzeski (blog, Freshly Squeezed Software) is releasing a new MacOS X RSS reader / news aggregator into beta today. Erik has written some great software, so I'm excited to take a look at his new product.

Called Pulp Fiction (is there any way he'll get away with using that name?), it looks to be an interesting improvement on OS X RSS tools.

One terribly interesting thing it allows for is persistent storage of downloaded articles. Unlike some other readers, it appears that Pulp Fiction will store content on your local drive indefinitely. I didn't see any information about the storage format or APIs for access to the data, but the ability to index and search everything I've read over the past year is fascinating.

Pulp Fiction appears to do some of that indexing already, as it provides a Mail.app-like search interface to articles.

I can't wait to play with it.

Friday, April 30, 2004

Cool beans. A second Rosetta stone-like stele was found in Egypt.

If you are at all interested in the story of cracking the Rosetta stone's code and deciphering hieroglyphics, The Keys to Egypt is a good read. Fascinating personalities.

A photomosaic picture of George W. Bush made of the faces of American soldiers killed in Iraq.


Thursday, April 29, 2004


God damn street photographers. They just walk up and take your picture.

Update: bitpuddle.com is back up, but mail is still not flowing, thanks to the incompetent people who host it. I expect mail to start flowing today, though.

"Piece of shit artwork removed because apparently making fun of this crap-master's artwork is a violation of copyright law. Never fear, however, as you can see her absolutely apalling garbage here."

Ha ha. Vyoma just made me laugh.

Sgt [Chip] Frederick said he and his fellow reservists had never been told how to deal with prisoners, or what lines should not be crossed.

"We had no training whatsoever," he said.

"I kept asking my chain of command for certain things... like rules and regulations. And it just wasn't happening," he said.

Ok, Chip, so you didn't have training or regulations for handling prisoners. But one would think training is not necessary to understand that you don't attach wires to prisoners' genitals.

America, these are your tax dollars at work.

Incidentally, Chip, who wasn't sure how to handle the Iraqi captives, is a member of the Army reserve. His regular, full time job? A prison guard.

Thanks to waider for getting me all riled up.

Scott Rosenberg weighs in on Republican bashing of John Kerry's Vietnam record:

"Here's the scene, then: A president who pulled family strings to get a berth in the Texas Air National Guard, and then couldn't even show up for that cushy job, sends out a vice president who won multiple draft deferments and candidly admits he had "other priorities" more important than fighting under U.S. colors, to attack the "judgment" of a Democratic candidate who both fought for his country and had the guts to turn against the war when its folly became evident."

Wesley Clark backs Kerry, too:

John Kerry was awarded three Purple Hearts, a Bronze Star and a Silver Star for his service in Vietnam. In April 1971, as part of a protest against the war, he threw some ribbons over the fence of the United States Capitol.

Republicans have tried to use this event to question his patriotism and his truthfulness, claiming he has been inconsistent in saying whether he threw away his medals or ribbons. This is no more than a political smear. After risking his life in Vietnam to save others, John Kerry earned the right to speak out against a war he believed was wrong. Make no mistake: it is that bravery these Republicans are now attacking.

Although President Bush has not engaged personally in such accusations, he has done nothing to stop others from making them. I believe those who didn't serve, or didn't show up for service, should have the decency to respect those who did serve — often under the most dangerous conditions, with bravery and, yes, with undeniable patriotism.

[via The New York Times]

I've said if before, but even if I did wake up a conservative guy tomorrow, I simply could not vote for a Republican, and don't think I ever will. Focusing on Clinton's oral sex while his administration was fighting on Al Qaeda, the secrecy and erosion of civil rights, the corruption and incestuous ties with big business, and the hypocrisy are not just morally wrong; these political tactics are bad for the country.

Wednesday, April 28, 2004

Two gay lovers took off most of their clothes, climbed up a tree in New York's Central Park and spent four hours engaging in sex acts and yelling abuse at police and firefighters.

Police said officers talked the men out of the three story high tree on Thursday night after the parks department had sent two cherry-pickers and firefighters had deployed an inflatable rescue mattress.

The couple, described by officials as a 32-year-old transsexual with female breasts wearing a purple thong and a 17-year-old boy in white boxer shorts, were admitted to the hospital for psychiatric evaluation. [via Reuters]

Isn't this precisely why police officers are given firearms?



In honor of sitting on my ass all day, I give you seats.

E-mail update: bitpuddle.com still unreachable. E-mail and website still down. The bastards.

Health note: pyloric valve slammed shut.

Tuesday, April 27, 2004

How did I miss this? Microsoft has released a subset of its development environment for free: the Visual C++ Toolkit 2003. Very interesting...

Clemens Vasters is talking about a large sample application he is writing for TechEd. It is a distributed, transactional system, and he is working through the difficulty of handling failures. Specifically, he is wondering what to do if his transactional serviced component makes a call to a web service over HTTP, and a failure happens somewhere in the overall transaction.

He goes on to describe a number of complicated ways around the problem. I see a couple of basic problems, issues with his approach:

  • Trying to use a simple, stateless protocol as part of a transactional system.
  • Trying to make a distributed method call look just like a local call.
At the risk of sounding like a crotchety CORBA asshole, if you want platform and language independence and distributed transactions, you might want to use something more than a dirt-simple, stateless, text-only wire protocol.

It is terribly strange to have watched web services grow from the wonderfully simple XML-RPC, to then evolve into SOAP, which reveled in its "distributed programming without the CORBA cruft" attitude, to then, piece by piece, replace all of CORBA's complexity. I guess it is cool that every firewall in the world lets port 80 pass, but maybe that shouldn't be the only criteria used when selecting a protocol.

I'm not sure when they were handing out the distributed programming feel-good pills, but I sure missed them. It is odd to think that a distributed method call can look and function just like a local one. It is bizarre to implement a system this way. But this attitude prevails, in a kind of "gee whiz, I'm writing distributed software today!" way.

Adding host-independence introduces many problems you don't face with a regular system. Memory management, transaction management, and service location all get a lot more complicated when components are distributed among a bunch of different servers. Distributed method calls shouldn't look and feel like local calls because they aren't the same; so much more can go wrong.

Clemens is a really smart guy, as are a lot of the people working on these issues. But I'm sad that our industry couldn't come together a little better to solve these problems. My concern is that we'll be stuck with another albatross, like the 16-bit windows legacy. There were perfectly good reasons for the way things were designed, but the framework started collapsing under its own hacked-together weight. Distributed development will surely be a large part of future systems, but I'm not terribly happy with the way things are going.

The federal assault weapons ban is scheduled to sunset on September 13, 2004. Call me a peacenik, leftist, East-coast commie liberal, but I don't think the U.S. needs more high-power, rapid fire weapons. This would be a good time to contact your congressional representatives.

On a related note, Italian customs officers seized 8,000 Kalashnikov assault rifles on a ship headed to the eastern United States.

Oh, and the people who host bitpuddle.com seem to be having some issues. This means that images hosted there won't load, and I haven't read any of your witty e-mail or comments since about 10:30 this morning.

My loss.


People were fascinated by this patch of tulips. At least ten people stopped to take pictures. While we were watching.

Bonus photo:

Monday, April 26, 2004

God dammit. My roof is leaking again.

Boing Boing points to Jay Maynard's step-by-step description of how he created his very own Tron costume. The actual costume is so-so, but some of the pictures are priceless.

Just seeing Maynard in a putty-colored body suit will require that I attend hours of corrective therapy. The rear view of him performing some kind of manipulation on his butt cheeks has surely caused me lasting damage.

If you can handle it, scroll to the bottom. You'll notice that some of these pictures were taken in a hotel room. Now that's just creepy.

I am proposing a new rule.

If you are going through a really difficult time, and someone tries to cheer you up by mentioning "footprints in the sand" or any combination of those words, you are allowed to kick that person squarely in the wedding tackle.


New York is a funny place.

Saint Patricks Cathedral, New York City

Space is at a premium. Often, acts one would consider rather private become public. A lover's quarrel. A passionate embrace. Breaking down crying. All tend to happen out in the open in Manhattan.

Weddings, too, often take place in full public view.

"Hello! Don't mind us assholes! Have fun getting married!"

This article in The Washington Post terrifies me. A profile of a family in Sugar Land, Texas, the author seeks to paint a portrait of a typical source of Republican support: a conservative family in the South.

I'm deeply saddened at the father's black-and-white oversimplification of the world, that his news sources are rumor-pushing web sites, and his confusing the George Bush the man with actions his administration has taken.

Very sad, indeed, because this Texas man's world view isn't that far off from that of the "radicals" in the middle east upon whom we are so fond of casting aspersions.

Sunday, April 25, 2004

Finally got around to seeing Matrix Revolutions this week. Everything that was cool, interesting, and thought provoking about the first Matrix was entirely absent in unlucky number three.

Not since Point Break have I been so disappointed with the money I've spent to see a film. Though it appears that the Wachowski brothers tried, it was hard to imagine any more cliches being stuffed into the sack that was Revolutions. What a terrible, terrible script.

I thought the absurdly long rave in number two was silly, but little did I know how much worse it could get. Why, why kill Trinity? And the thought that if some super computer wanted to talk to us, it would form some big human head made of swarming machines; who let this one get by? Simple indulgence.

At least Monica Bellucci made another appearance, though even her and the Frenchman's wardrobe weren't nearly as cool this time around.


Oops. This was supposed to be Friday's POTD. Sorry. I owe you a picture. I'm getting sick of flower pictures. Want to get back to street photos for a week. Maybe a whole week of fruit.